This is Digital Customer Success 5 min read

What’s the future of the Customer Success tech stack?

Mike Barnes • September 24, 2021

This week in our blog series, This is Digital Customer Success, our Head of partnerships, Mike Barnes explores why there isn't a blueprint for the CS tech stack and what the future holds.

While it’s no longer debatable the importance of Customer Success teams, there are still many questions surrounding what a successful CS org should look like. The priorities, KPIs, and company maturity can vary greatly which impacts how a team is structured. So as CS leaders select which tools their team needs within their tech stack, there isn’t a blueprint for what’s needed today, let alone several years from now.

To help understand this dilemma, let’s start by taking a deeper look at what's currently shaping the customer success tech tool belt and what you can expect in the next couple of years, including - CS team maturity, product-led growth strategy, and the increase of VC investment.

Customer Success maturity

We’ve talked previously about the evolution of CS teams as companies grow from a basic support and account management model to a manual customer success model, and eventually to a digitally-led customer success model [see chart below]. This progression is the only possible way companies can successfully scale as they surpass 100, 500, and 1,000 customers.

If you draw a similar line looking specifically at the tools being used by CS orgs, the progression looks like this:

  • Home-grown tools and processes – think spreadsheets and calendar reminders
  • Repurposing other company-wide tech – email automation, internal chat tools
  • Purchasing a dedicated CS tool and stretching capabilities – CRM, customer success platforms, community tools
  • Ensuring they have dedicated tech – In-app prompts, journey mapping, customer data platforms

During this evolution, CS leaders are going to be faced with a number of new challenges and for some, throwing additional technology at the problem is their first solution. The result? Tech Sprawl – a situation where you end up with a variety of tools where you’re only using 25% of the capabilities and paying for 100% of them.

Many organizations are cognizant of this issue having seen the ugly effects within other departments or even from the rise in the MarTech space. They also have their procurement teams actively managing against it. As a result, we’re starting to see companies deploy a lean set of tools for their CS teams, but ones that are integrated and complementary in nature. That’s now the requirement as standalone solutions will no longer play.

The impact of Product-led growth (PLG)

As we already know, over the past several years PLG has been a key strategy for many companies and it’s shaping the way customers engage with you, but also the tools that you’ll need to manage them.

Previously, success and support solutions were the main tools in the CS toolbox. They helped organize, manage, and respond to customers when they have an issue or in some cases proactively. Now, for companies leveraging PLG strategy, it’s more about driving adoption and providing tools to your customers in order for them to be successful. Having hundreds of accounts, paying very little (or nothing!) to you, and assigning a CS rep to them is not scalable, let alone getting sign-off from your CFO. 

What this boils down to is that a Product Led Growth strategy can’t be supported by a People Led Customer Success organization – that’s just account management. 

This shift is best to be supported by people, but also tools that are centralized, connected and easily accessible for your customers when they need them. This central hub with a team supporting them is the future of CS.

VC investment 

What’s compounding all these significant changes, is the influx of VC investment in the Customer Success space. New platforms are continually popping up; solving for specific use-cases and challenging the legacy incumbent platforms.

It’s difficult to find an exact figure for how much is being invested, but over the past 12 months, since August 2020, I manually ran reports on VC investment in the customer success platforms that I’m familiar with (if you’re interested, reach out and I’ll share the file I created). That total surpassed $1.5 billion, which is probably just a sliver of the full amount. 

This trend shows no signs of slowing down and the impact it will have on the future of the CS tech stack is likely a continued explosion of new tools and further consolidation as recently funded companies go the route of buying instead of building.

What’s the end game? 

There are lots of unknowns that make predicting the future tech stack near impossible. However, we do know the factors impacting the changes, shifts, and new waves.

There are lots of unknowns that make predicting the future tech stack near impossible. However, we do know the factors impacting the changes, shifts, and new waves. 

As you look at your own organization, remember to consider the stage of maturity and tools required to support your CS team. From there, ensuring you have the right tools that are integrated and working together, will allow you to make informed decisions and engage your customers through a centralized hub, instead of a sprawling set of landing pages, and portals. And if the solution you’re looking for doesn’t exist today, there’s a good chance we may see it funded in the not-so-distant future. 

Want to learn more about the state of the Customer Success tech stack? Download our report What's next for Customer Success? where 150+ Customer Success professionals provide a look into their tech stacks, data capabilities, and the metrics that guide them.

Download your copy here

Picture of Mike Barnes

By Mike Barnes

Mike is the Head of Partnerships at inSided. He's spent over 15 years creating mutually beneficial relationships for ISV and agency partners in the SaaS and Martech space. Connect with him on Linkedin. Connect on Linkedin

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